Number one concern for a new artist is what kind of pastel chalk do I buy? This can be very confusing as there are so many types available. Personally, I think it is best to start what a good soft pastel but not the most expensive. You must have something to "get your feet wet" so going inexpensive is a good start. If you decide it is not for you the money you spent is not great and you can always pass the soft pastels on to someone you know who would like to try this medium.
I started with soft pastels made in China. The brand name is Mungyo and Amazon usually has the best pricing. Here is a link to their soft pastel page. I now have used brands that are a lot more expensive but still also use these pastels. In fact, I am on my second box and have given them to my grandchildren as gifts. These are certainly not the best you can buy but they work well, especially for the beginner.
A little something about soft pastels. There are soft pastels and there are oil pastels. Oil pastels are not a common choice for pastel artists. They are more like fancy crayons as they require a special technique for using them. Soft pastels will make a mess of your hands but it washes off easily. They create a lot of pastel dust. To get rid of extra pastel dust you can tape it off or blow it off. Most artists use a tray to catch the excess dust or tap it off the painting onto a catching tray. I find that a little too fiddly so I just blow it away and then when finished give it a final tap on the back to rid it of any loose dust particles. AS as caution, blowing dust over the painting might cause some unwanted particles to stick where they are not wanted. Just saying.
Soft pastels come in half-sticks like the Mungyo or long sticks. They can be square sided or round. If you follow this link to Amazon Mungyo pastels and look at the Q&A section you will see a lot of common questions asked and answered about these soft pastels. This is directly from the page as the answer posted here is really excellent.
Question asked: Hi! could somebody enlighten me a bit about the difference between Soft Pastels, compressed pastels and soft pastel chalk? Thank you!!
Answer: Hi! Soft pastels are quite different from pastel chalk. Chalk has only a fraction of the pigment of soft pastels and is comprised of a lot of binder, only a small amount of pigment. I'm guessing by "compressed" you mean hard pastels, which are much harder to break and require more pressure to leave a mark on the surface. Typically, one would sketch their painting with a hard pastel, or use it for finer details. Half-soft pastel brands are used for blocking in color after you have completed the drawing. Finally, after applying several thin layers of the half-soft pastels, you would use the soft pastels to finish the painting. The hard pastels are used for drawing, the half-soft are used to build up layers of colors, the soft pastels are used for the final layer of color. A good hard pastel is Conte, a good half-soft brand is Rembrandt or Unison and a good soft pastel is Sennelier, Ferrario, or Holbein. Mungyo brand for artists is a good half-soft brand. By Betty Smith on April 4, 2015Please visit my new online shop to see my pastel paintings. Thank you for reading my post.